We're two months into a rudderless year, so why should March be any different?

Earnings season may be drawing to a close, but there are still plenty of companies delivering their quarterly checkups.

It hasn't all been pretty. On Friday, I went over seven stocks that analysts see posting lower quarterly profits this week than they did during the same period a year ago. But there are also plenty of other public companies finding ways to grow in this somewhat dicey environment.

Let's go over seven companies that analysts see posting healthier bottom lines this week.


Latest Quarter's EPS (Estimated)

Year-Ago Quarter's EPS




AutoZone (NYSE: AZO)



Staples (Nasdaq: SPLS)



Costco (Nasdaq: COST)



Ciena (Nasdaq: CIEN)



Suntech Power (NYSE: STP)



Wendy's/Arby's (NYSE: WEN)



Source: Yahoo! Finance.

Clearing the table
Let's start at the top. MBIA is a municipal bond insurer. Yes, this was one of the first companies to crack when the credit markets began coming undone. The losses continue at MBIA, but at least the shortcomings are narrowing.

AutoZone rocked through the recession. The auto parts chain thrived as a tough economy forced drivers to hold on -- and maintain -- their cars a little longer. The real test will be how AutoZone and its peers hold up now that the new car market is showing some signs of life.

Staples is one of the better proxies for gauging the state of corporate America. If small companies are loading up on toner cartridges and leather desk-chairs again, the days of economic improvement may already be here. Just make sure that they're not moving too many red-ink pens. Deficits aren't a good thing.

Costco is the warehouse club that should be a lock as an "all-weather" investment. When the going gets tough, Costco presents an attractive value proposition of marked down groceries and other wares in bulk.

Ciena is pegged to post a narrower loss on Thursday, but analysts have overestimated the networking company's earnings potential in four of the past five quarters. It's a troubling trend, but Ciena isn't the kind of company that is built to thrive during economic lulls. Once companies begin ramping up their IT budgets, Ciena will have a chance to shine.

Speaking of shining, Suntech is a solar energy bellwether. This has been a very volatile sector -- as investors weigh the clean energy benefits of photovoltaic cells versus cheaper energy solutions -- but Suntech appears to be heading in the right direction. Wall Street expects the Chinese company to reverse a year ago loss with a modest profit.

Finally, we have Wendy's/Arby's. Burger chains may have held up well during the early stages of the recession, but there's only so far that a dollar menu can go. Even the golden arches proved mortal with a rare decline in stateside comps for the month of January. This makes the improvement at Wendy's/Arby's commendable, although it's an easy comparison given last year's loss.

Cross those fingers, but know the fundamentals
These aren't the only companies expected to post year-over-year gains this week. Several companies have either found ways to grow during the recession or have simply cut enough corners to show improvement on the bottom line.

This doesn't mean that investors can rest easy. The bad news here is that these companies are expected to post improving results. The optimism is already baked into their share prices. It makes it easier for them to slip, but why begin worrying about the companies that we aren't supposed to be worrying about?

If analysts are doing a good job modeling their profit targets, we'll be just fine.

Which of the many earnings report due out this week are you looking forward to? Share your enthusiasm in the comment box below.

Suntech Power is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. Costco and Staples are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. The Fool owns shares of Costco, which is also a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. It will give you one less reason to worry about this week.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz prefers to look at the bright side of life -- and strife. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.